Sex Tourism in Thailand and How It Is Influencing the Overall Tourism

Thailand has been famous for sex tourism. Tourists flock with the purpose of experiencing the country’s beautiful places, and what sex commerce can offer. If there are male chauvinists who enjoy the trade, these are on the expense of women including young girls age 12 and 13 who are driven into prostitution because of poverty and the desire to have a better life in the city.

This paper aims to understand the history of sex tourism in Thailand and why this country became a famous tourist destination both for their beautiful sceneries and prostitution. This paper wants to propose to tourism officials some alternatives that will enhance tourists’ attraction to the country’s beautiful places rather than the exploitation of beautiful women and children. The proposal may hurt Thailand’s tourism industry but it will save the dignity and pride of women. They were already deprived of better lives. Let us not deprive them of dignity and honor.

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I          Objectives
a.       To investigate sex tourism in Thailand and how does it affect the country’s overall tourism industry

b.      To present result to Tourism Authority of Thailand and propose ways to minimize sex tourism

c.       To present alternatives to sex tourism without adversely affecting the country’s tourism industry

II         Methodology

a.       Do research on the internet. There are a lot of articles that discuss sex tourism in Thailand

b.      Know Thailand’s history of sex tourism to have a better understanding of the situation.

c.       Interview people who have experienced sex tourism in Thailand. Ask their views about its effect on the country’s tourism industry

The history of sex tourism can be traced way back to the Cold War period. At the time Tourism Organization of Thailand was doing its best in turning the country into a tourist haven, the war in Vietnam escalated. This transformed Thailand into a rest and recreation (R&R) place for soldiers who are tired and weary because of war. Prostitution became a lucrative job when locally based customers were replaced by the growing number of foreigners. This was seen as cold war ended but a big number of soldiers in Thailand decided to stay. This led to the existence of “sex politics”. Neighboring countries in the region, specifically those which served as military camps during the war, were also affected (Da Silva 2002).

Thailand’s tourism officials admitted that they will have trouble including prostitution as a way to attract tourists and thus discouraged its promotion. The Thai government however, saw this as something that cannot be avoided. This was apparent in a prohibition act they enacted in 1960 which they later amended through another Act that softened their stand on the sex trade. The Entertainment Places Act was so flawed that prostitution can be found in the menu book of restaurants and coffee shops. Thailand became known as the only country in the world where tourism connotes different meaning (Da Silva 2002).

Military personnel including officers have a hand in the recruitment of thousands of women, including young girls age 12 – 13,  who were lured into prostitution. They combed rural areas in search for beautiful girls and offered money and better life in the big city. Even parents were courted and offered appliances to let their pretty daughters go with them. The poverty in the rural areas answers the the question what made these women entered the flesh trade. And when they are already there, they seem to have fallen in a pit where escape is difficult to make (Da Silva 2002).

Thailand today remains the same. Flesh trade continuous to proliferate in every nook and corner of the capital. From the smallest bar and barber shop to the bigger hotels and golf courses, pretty girls are there to cater males sexual desires. And when the macho’s urge is over, the victims are left behind – young girls and women (Da Silva 2002).

Effects of Sex Tourism in Children

Children can suffer both physically and psychologically as a result of their involvement in the sex trade. Permanent impairment can be the result of a forced and repeated sexual services at an early age. Usually they are made to render services despite of the pain and the presence of active infections. They are also highly exposed to HIV or AIDS which can lead to early death. Forcing them to work against their will and things they don’t understand can be traumatic to children. Its effects are profound and may last a lifetime. And when they return to their home after some time in a prostitution house, relatives and neighbors ostracised them as if they carry some communicable disease. Usually, the experience remains in their being and seems to stay there forever (Brungs 2002).

Protection of Children
Child prostitution has been the headache of many developing countries. These industry has been a large income earner for some countries in the Asia-Pacific region making laws on prostitution difficult to implement (Brungs 2002)  It is good to note that the End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), an international NGO which is in the forefront of an international campaign to end child prostitution, is based right in Thailand. ECPAT came into existence in 1990 during a consultation meeting with advocates of children’s rights. Demands of tourist for younger children is growing, the report said (The Advocacy Project 2001).

The authorities and local NGOs forged a Memorandum of Understanding that has since tighten cooperation when dealing with victimized children. It was given emphasis that children will be treated as victims and not as criminals (The Advocacy Project 2001).

ECPAT has an ongoing project in cooperation with local organization which aims to prevent the youth from being lured to prostitution in Northern Thailand. Communities in this part of the country are closely watching their children. Children on the other hand are well informed on their rights and have been asserting them. Statistics showed that none of the children who were on the project list was attracted to prostitution and the few who went out of the community maintain communication with their loved ones (The Advocacy Project 2001)

Effect of Sex Tourism in Health in the Family and the Overall Tourism Industry
Acquired Immune Defficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can best spread when a man uses the services of a prostitute to satisfy his sexual desire without the use of condom. They may use protective condom for family planning but they hate using it during sexual intercourse with girlfriends or prostitutes. Most of the men who frequent brothels are married or have current partners. The AIDS that they may likely get from prostitutes can be spreaded to their girlfriends, wives and eventually children. AIDS can spread internationally because they are being carried by people who do business worldwide. Aside from businessmen, prostitutes who are terribly sick are sent home to their own country and continue to spread the disease there.

Aside from HIV1 and HIV2, health authorities also discovered two substrains. Those that were present in HIV patients in Bangkok have strong similarity with the virus in the United States while the other substrain are present in HIV patients in Northern Thailand and which are look alike of those virus found in Africa. It was speculated that the advance stage of AIDS in Thailand can be traced during the Vietnam War when the country became a place for rest and recreation for war-torn soldiers. The sex trade continue to this day unabated (Thailand and Aids 2006).

It was estimated that by the year 2000, 1.5 million women of Thailand will be positive of HIV disease. This will spread to one-third of their children. It was also predicted that AIDS could entail a lost in income of about $8.7 billion and death to thousands of people leading some quarters to speculate that AIDS is something that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of women and children (U.S. News and World Report 1992)

But Thailand seems to be more afraid of the effects of AIDS to its $5 billion tourism industry. It was observed that tourists have begun to avoid some of the dangerous places of Bangkok (and Manila). The death and the economic ruin that AIDS may bring are enough to prompt country’s officials to jump into action. Or remain complacent until the impending catastrophe become unmanageable (U.S. News and World Report 1992).

Proposed Solutions/Alternatives to Sex Tourism Problem

Thailand was devastated by a tsunami. Thai people have never seen such a devastation in many decades. But it can be viewed as a blessing for Thailand to mend its ways particularly in the issue of sex tourism. It’s a proper timing for the enactment and reinforcement of laws that will prohibit sex trades and protect women and children from being exploited. All laws which are geared toward the eradication of flesh trade will have big repercussion on the country’s tourism industry. But if they can survive a tsunami, they can as well endure a sudden decrease in income from the tourism industry.

It may not be easy to do as there are a lot of people, most of them are in the bureaucracy, who are benifitting from the flesh trade. But with strong political will, sex tourism can be minimized if not totally eliminated. Thailand can promote ecological tours. This will contribute in the country’s economic growth as well as in the preservation of natural resources. Despite the tsunami, Thailand remains to be a beautiful country and it is still a world class tourist destination. Many foreigners are still enchanted by its magnificent temples. And the people are warm and friendly (Da Silva 2002)

Continuation of low airlines fares should continue. This was launch in 2004 and was identified as one of the factors for increased sales in the transport sector in 2005. As prices are affordable, people who are planning to spend their Christmas in another land will consider Thailand as an incredible and inexpensive place for the ocassion. Thai people who are out of the country will also take advantage of the cheaper airfares (Euromonitor International 2006).


Sex tourism cannot forever thrive in Thailand. The nation’s leaders should realize that the contry’s human resources specifically women and children have been devastated. Being poor, the only wealth that they can be proud of are their honor and dignity. But those are also in danger if sex commerce will continue. If the government cannot provide them with better lives, at least let them live with their honor intact.